[EDITORIALS]Politics and public money

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[EDITORIALS]Politics and public money

Fifty days before the December presidential election, we have yet to overcome a politics of hatred and contempt. The endless circle of trumpeted disclosures, defiant contradictions and take-no-prisoners combat is getting rougher and rowdier. The candidates all claim to be engaged in a respectable competition of policies, while surreptitiously trying to dig up dirt on the others. Absurdly, such an attitude is reflected in the budget draft review at the National Assembly.

Putting aside their policy agenda, the legislators are competing for funds to use in pork-barrel spending in their districts. Our precious tax money is being fought over to be divided among these legislators and used for political reasons. This is the shameless portrait of our National Assembly, which has taken policy debate out of the election.

The size and the background of this intended pork-barrel spending is ridiculous. The 16 standing committees added 4 trillion won ($3.2 billion) to the budget when they reviewed the government draft and passed it on to the Special Committee on Budget and Spending. This is a 3.7 percent increase, nearly twice the average over the last five years.

The Grand National Party is asking for more funds for the Blue House and the Government Information Agency. In the past, it complained that allocations to these agencies were too generous. Many see its sudden change of heart as reflecting confidence that it will become the ruling party next year. Talk about counting one's chickens before they're hatched! Millennium Democrats are also trying to keep the budget as big as possible lest they lose their votes for being stingy.

Even more ridiculous is the budget increase for the National Assembly itself. The legislators approved 500 million won to build a sauna for female legislators and 1.3 billion won for the printing of assembly reports. It appears this will be the worst budget review ever. The Special Committee on Budget and Accounts must scrutinize the draft alertly.

The presidential hopefuls should realize that the foundation of a policy-first and public-first election is a sensible budget draft. Instead of trying to devise new policies or copying others' policies, try taking a good look at the present budget draft first.

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